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TEA: Governor's Reversal Means 'Race to Bottom' for Teacher Pay

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PHOTO: Gov. Bill Haslam cites a revenue shortfall in Tennessee as his reason for reversing course and eliminating planned salary hikes for teachers and other state workers. Photo credit: Gov. Haslam's office.
PHOTO: Gov. Bill Haslam cites a revenue shortfall in Tennessee as his reason for reversing course and eliminating planned salary hikes for teachers and other state workers. Photo credit: Gov. Haslam's office.
April 2, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Pressure continues to mount across Tennessee for Gov. Bill Haslam to follow through on his proposal to raise teacher salaries in the state.

Last fall, Haslam said he wanted to boost teacher pay, and his initial budget included a small hike across the board. Now, however, the governor has withdrawn that plan, drawing fire from Gera Summerford, a Sevier County math teacher and president of the Tennessee Eduction Association.

"The governor made a public announcement several months ago that his intent was to make Tennessee's salaries for teachers the fastest-growing in the nation - and then this budget does not include that," she said. "We anticipated a 2 percent increase and it's not there."

Haslam said he still thinks it's important to invest in education, but the state must close a $160 million budget gap. A big part of that shortfall is from sales and business tax collections that were below expectations, and Summerford said that drop in state revenue must be closely examined.

"I think that this drop in the corporate taxes is something that needs to be investigated," she said. "We're certainly looking for some answers to questions we have raised, because if the governor says it's where all the drop has come from, then that's something we need to look more closely at."

Haslam also is abandoning his plans for a small wage hike for state workers and funding increases for the state's colleges and universities. Tennessee ranks among the bottom five in the nation for investments in public education.

More from TEA is online at TEAteachers.org. Information on education funding per state is at nea.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN